One of the ads that has stood out in that vein this cycle is from attorney Shelley Adler (D), who is challenging Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) In an spot that went up last week, a doppelganger of Runyan in a suit and football helmet tackles elderly people, poking fun at his past as an NFL player while also getting across the Democrats' message that Republicans will not protect Medicare.
"I actually think there is a rising feeling in the media consulting world is what you need in October is an ad that's creative," the strategist added.
But not everyone believes voter tuneout is inevitable. Nick Everhart is one of the top ad-makers for GOP candidates in the country.
He compared the phenomenon to when car dealers need to unload vehicles or when holiday advertisements flood TV channels.
He stressed that the content of the ad - not the amount of money or points behind it - is what matters.
But if the ads do not break through, the emphasis will expand to direct mail, voter outreach and early groundwork laid in candidate recruitment. But just like the television advertising, campaigns worry about contacting voters to the point of harassment. The consensus among most strategists is that while ads may lose their cost-benefit effect, they remain the best way to reach voters.
"I don't subscribe to the premise of clutter. I kind of disdain and hate the word," Everhart said. "There's always advertising on television. There's always advertising in people's faces."
Federal law dictates that candidates must have access to lower ad rates while super PACs and committees must pay a premium.
Lower rates or not, the economic effect of political advertising has changed the affiliate business model to the point that Wall Street now measures affiliate television outlooks around the two-year campaign cycles. And there is another curve ball that could hit those spending on ads: the World Series. In 2010, operatives saw rates jump in the Philadelphia market when the Phillies went to the World Series.
A glance at teams leading their divisions shows the Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals are in positions to move rates as the playoff season unfolds. An Ohio source familiar with ad sales emphasized that sports are a hot commodity for political buyers. Rates could jump depending on how well colleges such as Ohio State University and professional football teams perform over the course of the fall.